Wednesday, January 26, 2022

"Straight Up" by Paula Abdul

#1 Alert!
Platinum Record Alert!
Song#:  3737
Date:  12/03/1988
Debut:  79
Peak:  1 (3 weeks)
Weeks:  25
Genre:  Dance-Pop, New Jack Swing

Pop Bits:  By this point in time, Abdul's debut album Forever Your Girl wasn't flying off record store shelves. Its first two singles each broke through to the R&B Top 10, but neither single could reach the Pop Top 40. The results left the LP peaking at a very minor #155 Pop. It seemed that Abdul's bid for mainstream success was not gonna happen, but then a DJ in San Francisco started to spin the album track "Straight Up." It gained enough momentum that Abdul's label, who didn't think the song was a hit, decided to give it a go as the LP's third single. With a more national push, the song began to take off. It would become her third and biggest hit at R&B reaching #2 while also making it to #3 at Dance. More importantly, the tune wound its way to the top of the Pop chart and remained there for three weeks. The hit would also do well enough to become a platinum seller. The album would then rebound and crack the Top 20 for the first time. By March of '89, it would go platinum. The third time was certainly the charm for Abdul who went from a former cheerleader and choreographer to a platinum-selling singer in a matter of a few short months.

ReduxReview:  How the label didn't hear this as a hit is just crazy. The honking synth line is one hook, then the synth whistle line is another, then the bridge with the "please, please" was another and that was all before the main chorus even started! Add to that the timely new jack feel and there was no question that the song was a hit. Abdul lobbied for the tune (see below) because she heard something and she was exactly right. While it should have been her first single, I don't think it was necessarily bad that it came later. Her first two singles got her established at R&B and Dance, so that put her name out there. Then this third hit took her to a whole new level and it was as if she got a second, bigger start. I've always waffled when it came to Abdul. Sometimes I'm a bit of a fan, then sometimes not. However, I applaud her for knowing what she wanted and going for it. She basically became a huge star mainly on instinct. It certainly wasn't her vocal ability (although she had a capable, interesting voice), but she had a vision as to what made a pop star and it worked out. It all more or less started with this massive hit.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Since Abdul's label, Virgin Records, hadn't even considered "Straight Up" for single release, a video for the song wasn't available once it began to climb the charts. They had to scramble to arrange one and paired Abdul with music video director (and later Oscar nominated director) David Fincher. Shot in black and white and choreographed by Abdul, the video started off with a tap dance from Abdul before it broke into the song. The video would also feature an appearance by her friend, comedian Arsenio Hall whose syndicated TV talk show was set to debut in January of '89; just as this song was shaping up to be a hit. Also seen in the video was model/actor and future two-time Oscar nominee Djimon Hounsou. It was his first video gig and he would go on to do more with Fincher before beginning to land film and TV roles. The video for "Straight Up" would later be nominated for six MTV Music Video Awards. It would end up winning four including Best Female Video and Best Choreography.  2) This song was written and produced By Elliot Wolff. With a couple writing credits to his name, Wolff was tasked to write a song for a new artist signed to Virgin Records. He came up with "Straight Up." Unfortunately (or fortunately), that artist's deal never got off the ground and that left the song available. The tune found its way to Abdul, who loved it and wanted to record it. The label was less keen on the tune and didn't hear a hit. Abdul persisted though and apparently after agreeing to record a couple songs the label wanted her to do, she was given the green light. The song was actually recorded at Wolff's apartment and Abdul's vocals were recorded in his shower. Apparently, the noise didn't sit well with at least one neighbor who banged on the wall. Abdul said that in the original masters, you could hear someone banging and yelling "shut up!"


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